Hazing News

Previous KETV story on the fatal Nebraska fire that just brought charges

Fireworks were set off in or near a Lincoln fraternity the night before a fire killed one person, an affidavit released on Tuesday afternoon shows.Ryan Stewart, of Ord, was killed in the fire. Aaron McGuire, 21, of Sioux Falls, S.D., Travis Mann, 22, of Beatrice, and David Spittler, 20, were injured in a fire at the Phi Kappa Tau house at Nebraska Weslyan University.Tuesday night, fraternity alumni gathered at Lincoln restaurant, Michel’s Grille Ville, to hold a fundraiser for their fraternity brothers. Lance Hall is on the fraternity’s board of governors. He said while investigators do their jobs, fraternity members need to offer support to their friends.”What I think we need to do is get all of the information, it’s really difficult to speculate, to be specific when we’re waiting to find out causes, but again I think we decided to put our focus on helping the men, in what could be a very delicate situation in their lives,” Hall said.The search warrant confirmed what neighbors told KETV NewsWatch 7 shortly after the fire — that they heard explosions in the early-morning hours of Nov. 17.According to a search warrant affidavit, fraternity members told investigators that fireworks were being set off in or around the fraternity.On the day of the fire, investigators were seen collecting bottle rockets from outside the front steps.The search warrant shows that investigators confiscated dozens of bottle rockets, Black Cat 1.5-inch firecrackers, a Strike Force Missile firework, water bomb firecrackers and Texas Giant Pop Rockets.The search warrant also details how one fraternity member noticed a calendar burning near or next to the room where the fire started. He told investigators he stomped out the calendar and threw it in the east stairwell.According to the affidavit, the fire started in or near room 203, which was Stewart’s room.Court records show that one fraternity member went in to Stewart’s room as the fire was burning, and that Stewart was standing in the room. That person told investigators Stewart was staring at a futon that was on fire in the room. Court papers said the member told Stewart to get out, then pulled the fire alarm.Fraternity members also told fire investigators there was a function going on at the fraternity on Nov. 16 that went into the morning hours of Nov. 17, the affidavit showed.

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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